Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kung Fu Panda Review

It is very rare that we take our kids to the movies. They're usually too loud, too visually busy, and Gus has a hard time sitting still through them. I can count on one hand the number of movies we've been to. We decided to try again since it was a rainy holiday and the people who had invited us for a barbecue lost their power.

What a great movie Kung Fu Panda is! The entire family enjoyed it and this will probably be one that we add to our DVD collection. Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman were really wonderful, and my husband and I laughed probably more than the kids.

In general Kung Fu Panda is a nice family movie with some positive messages. It is the story of an overweight, clumsy and completely lovable Panda who dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master like his idols, the Furious Five: Tigress, Mantis, Viper, Monkey and Crane, who are all trained by the legendary Masters Shifu and Oogway. He learns to believe in himself and that being himself is the way to achieve his destiny. I will admit and caution, the fights are pretty violent for younger kids, and it gets scary at some points. But this was not a G rated film, so I wouldn't criticize per se, just caution. There was one scene where the villain, a buffed up snow leopard warrior named Tai Lung, is strangling Master Shifu and that got a bit hard even for me to watch. Yet the fights were also beautifully choreographed/animated, and were better and easier on the eye than some live action movies I've seen. Pretty amazing.

The humor was funny, but not obnoxious. One reason we pass on most kids movies is that the language and humor is often geared toward adults and not appropriate for younger kids, or kids who perseverate and echo lots of things they hear. We have to be very careful what Gus watches because he'll go and start spouting is at inappropriate times, like at school. Or he may mimic some of the behavior, as many kids do. There was a minimum, if any, of what could be considered potty humor or offensive language. Very respectfully done, but I would expect no less from Jack Black or Jackie Chan. These are two actors who have earned my trust when it comes to kids' movies.

As far as elements that might set off an autistic child, this movie is loud, but not too bad, and it's not constant. Gus didn't cover his ears once. The fight scenes did seem a little too stimulating for him, as those were the points when he got the squirmiest. I think the visuals were moving too fast and were perhaps too bright for him. At ninety minutes, it was just the perfect length for a child who has trouble sitting still. The message that you can be 'flawed' and still rise to greatness is one that I always love for Gus to see.

All in all, I'd give Kung Fu Panda 4.75 out of 5 stars. It's a worthwhile flick for any kid, and parents will have a good time as well.